Money Inc

Chris Obure: Gold scammer who doesn’t touch deals less than Sh100 million

His victims sue him, but shortly active death threats see them gassing towards the airport, fleeing

A time to kill: Chris Obure (left) was arrested after his gun was used in the killing of Kevin Omwenga. Bullet shot through the heart, a gold scum deal gone sore.

By Pascal Owade

Contributing Editor/crime

Chris Obure is Nairobi’s resident gold scammer. Just four years ago, he conned a Venezuelan lawyer Sh200 million in a botched gold deal. Deals worth less than Sh100 million are for his juniors. Like Kevin Omwenga, his friend who was recently killed by his bodyguard using Obure’s gun.

Obure and his bodyguard, Robert Bodo were arrested for the murder over a deal gone wrong. Investigators privy to the case intimate that Kevin had closed a Sh100 million gold deal. The quid was paid to Obure’s account from where Kevin was to receive his cut. But instead, Obure bought him two cars, a Range Rover and the Porsche Panamera both worth Sh20 million. Obure also paid Sh1 million annual rent upfront for Kevin’s apartment at Galana Suites in Kilimani, beside leasing a car yard for him along Ngong Road and paid Sh1.2 million in annual rent, upfront.

But Kevin, who was previously a car dealer on commissions, demanded cold hard cash. He was to get about Sh50 million from the gold deal. This demand was what led to a tiff and the shooting incident. But investigators were still tying loose ends when Obure tabled an offer.

Obure was spotted around Galana Suites where Kevin lived on the day he was shot

Obure didn’t appear worried when arraigned in court. It was more of a chance to parade his crisp designer suits, gleaming gold watches, a clean shave concealing premature balding. But things were getting so hot he has since turned himself into a state witness…against Bodo. But the DPP has rejected his application after evidence emerged that Obure was spotted around Galana Suites where Kevin lived on the day he was shot.

Obure is familiar with police stations and court rooms since, to afford his high end lifestyle, some sucker has to be separated from with his millions. Victims are always men. The scamming cartel operates from Kilimani, Nairobi’s capital of drugs, sex dens, gun runners, kidnappings, money laundering, ‘wash-wash’ and murders.

Gold scamming is an exclusive crime club: small time beginners pay Obure ‘scamming fees’

The accomplice: Christ Obure and bodyguard Robert Bodo in court. Officers familiar with the cartel explained that gold scamming is an exclusive crime club. No one gets jailed.

Obure’s victims, mostly foreigners, sue him, but shortly, active death threats see them gassing towards the airport fleeing back to Brazil, Russia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Australia. Obure cuts deals, pays coppers protection fees. The millions are rarely recovered, no one gets jailed.

Officers familiar with the cartel explained that gold scamming is an exclusive crime club: small time beginners pay Obure ‘scamming fees’. Obure in turn pays protection fee to entrenched coppers in case of arrests. 

But problems come to those who try shortchanging others. Omwenga had recently acquired a Porsche Panamera valued at over Sh10 million. The shooting was linked to millions minted in a gold scam, but not remitted to the kingpins.

Indeed, the Kilimani cartel comprise of dapperly dressed crooks with offices with plush carpets and secretaries in mini-skirts, high heels, plunging cleavages. It is here that the ‘Mark’ as scammers call their victims, is taken for their financial throats to be slit.

Chris Obure would later take the victims to Paul Kobia’s office, a seven bedroom house in Riverside Drive

Witness to a trial: Chris Obure, with his modest education, began from the lower end of the food chain as mtu wa mkono for Paul Kobia, the scammer in-chief himself.

With his modest education, Chris Obure began from the lower end of the food chain as mtu wa mkono for Paul Kobia, the scammer in-chief. Obure took ‘Marks’ to meetings with government officials, giving dirty deals a clean hand. He would later take the victims to Kobia’s office, a seven bedroom house in Riverside Drive, Nairobi where he would arrange Kobia’s pocket handkerchief.

 Obure would show Kobia photos as proof of meetings with mandarins in government before ensuring the ‘Marks’ didn’t get into Kobia’s office with phones or any recording devices.

Kobia would receive phone calls in which ‘Yes your Excellency!’ featured prominently to impress the ‘Marks.’ Obure would be entrusted with clearing their traffic enroute to their hotel. The ‘Marks’ would shortly be crying in the toilet.

Obure worked for Kobia for more than 20 years, rising to Chief Strategist and Director of Business Development at Kobia’s Great Lakes Group of Companies. Then he became the captain of his own scam ship after falling out with Kobia.

 It so happened that Obure came across e-mails in which Kobia was demanding Sh20 million from Hong Kong based businessman, Dennis Schmelzenbach. According to court documents, Schmelzenbach was to pay an additional Sh20 million as ‘lift fees’ for 300kg of gold worth Sh500 million.

Obure sent an e-mail warning him not to send any more money to Kobia who was shortly arrested but late released on Sh500,000 bond.

Death threats saw Obure fleeing to South Africa. That was in 2011 when Kobia was accused by Congolese President Joseph Kabila of stealing his 400kg of gold worth Sh8 billion.

A day later, Cheptarus was shot dead outside his house at 1am in Nairobi’s South C estate

The Racketeer: Paul Kobia taught Chris Obure all the tricks in the gold scam game.

Kabila jetted in person to Nairobi where he pressed retired President Mwai Kibaki to help him wrestle the gold from Kobia.  

Shortly, police and KRA officers led by Joseph Cheptarus, KRA Assistant Commissioner for Investigations and Enforcement, raided Kobia’s warehouse in JKIA… but found no gold. A day later, Cheptarus was shot dead outside his house at 1am in Nairobi’s South C estate that February. Four gunmen had abducted the guards and worn their uniform. Then waited for Cheptarus, pumped four slugs into his body.

Kobia denied stealing Kabila’s gold and instead said he got it from the gold mine of a Congolese named Etienne. Kobia’s office was then a seven-bedroom house in Nairobi’s Riverside Drive.

So how do gold scams work?

The sucker agrees to come to Kenya on a tourist visa to see the gold ‘live-live’

Pelican Brief: Former DRC President Joseph Kabila and late Internal Security Minister Prof George Saitoti in 2011. Kabila was in Nairobi after his gold was stolen by Kilimani scammers.

Well, it starts with a sucker falling for a pitch over the Internet. The sucker agrees to come to Kenya on a tourist visa to see the gold ‘live-live.’ Meetings are in lavishly furnished offices, apartments or five-star hotels. To make suckers feel important, scammers hire police as bodyguards complete with outriders for clearing traffic from the airport.

They meet government officials. Lawyers draw contracts. The suckers are then driven in limos to a warehouse inside JKIA where they pick one bar of gold at random for independent testing.

Then the scam begins with the suckers paying for the gold. But there is a small problem: The plane the suckers used would be intercepted at JIKIA runway unless tax to clear the gold is paid. The suckers would pay. But then officials from the Ministry of Mining would intercept the gold demanding payment of duty and fictitious taxes. The suckers would pay and ‘lift fees’ as well.

Eventually the gold would be released only for it to turn into gold coloured metal upon arrival, say in Dubai. The suckers would return to file a police report for being conned. But they will be arrested for working in Kenya using tourist visas which is illegal!

The sucker will pay more to be released on bond, but getting his visa back will mean forking out more quid then death threats will see the sucker coiling his tail towards the airport before another sucker comes calling for his throat to be slit. They are always men!

Besides gold, the scammers also deal in expensive rose oil used in perfumes,   selling impounded cars from Mombasa port and minerals like diamonds and mercury.  Then there are fake tenders and witchcraft-to bewitch those who conned you to return the money…but after paying, the mganga and his accomplices disappear and you are left looking for another mganga to get the crooked mganga!  

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